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Reality TV claims a life

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Jim Downs selfie/Facebook

The creative director at RideApart.com, a major website for motorcycle adventure, has died in a freak, off-trail, motorsport accident in the Front Range Chugach Mountains above Anchorage.

Forty-three-year-old Jim Downs from North Hollywood was in the area shooting a pilot for a TV show, according to friends. He appears to have suffered fatal injuries when an all-terrain vehicle rolled over on him.

ATVs and their winter equivalent, the snowmachine, are now high on the list of things that can kill you in the Alaska wilderness, or on the edge of the Alaska wilderness, which is simply not as friendly to people as today’s urban environments.

Anchorage Police say they were called to Brewster’s Road in Bear Valley, a suburb high above the state’s largest city, at about 10 a.m. Thursday  by a woman who reported Downs dead in an accident.

“She stated…Downs left the house at 8:30 that morning to set up trail cams on a bear trail for the purpose of filming bears,” a media release from the Anchorage Police Department said. “At 9:20 she looked outside up the mountain and saw a debris trail. She hiked up, approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and located Downs who had rolled the ATV and was killed in the crash.”

Downs sometimes filmed, edited and produced video for Moto Stella, which is described on Vimeo.com as “a star that beckons curious travelers forward with the promise of discovery and adventure. MOTO STELLA believes the adventure begins the moment you walk outside and start your motorcycle and celebrates journeys of every size.”

He was a highly experienced motorcyclist.

“Was awoken by very sad news that a fatal accident took the life of Jim Downs,” a friend posted on the Moto Stella Facebook page. “We shared so much, including our passion for adventure and new experiences. He was a visionary and embraced ideas with vigor. On one such occasion we took BMW GS’s from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas and back.

“This was not a moto-related accident. He was shooting a TV pilot in Alaska and was setting up a shot alone in a 6×6 (Argo) in some rough terrain.”

The slopes above Brewster Drive rise steeply toward 4,308-foot McHugh Peak in the half-million-acre Chugach State Park, a vast wilderness at the edge of the state’s largest city. Several grizzly bears have been frequenting the area this year. The nature of the TV pilot is unclear, but Alaska has in recent years attracted no end of producers looking to create new “reality” shows.

Anchorage Police said they “carried the body down the mountain where the Medical Examiner took possession.  Downs’ next-of-kin was notified.”

Alaska, according to a 2012 study published in the journal “Public Health Reports”, is the national leader in ATV fatalities. The death rate of 2.67 deaths per 100,000 people is more than one and a half times higher than that for the next deadliest state, West Virginia.

Nationally, fatalities have increased threefold since the 1990s while the Alaska rate has gone up almost five-fold, according to the 2012 study jointly sponsored by  the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

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